In 1965, Hal David wrote these lyrics: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” These lyrics were made popular by Jackie DeShannon and Dionne Warwick. Almost two millennia before, the Apostle John reminded us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”—John 3:16 (NKJV). The world does not need sensational love that is generated by feelings, but God’s love, agape, which is above and beyond all earthly love.
A classic definition of agape love is, “universal love, such as the love for strangers, nature, or God. . . . Also called charity by Christian thinkers, agape can be said to encompass the modern concept of altruism, defined as unselfish concern for the welfare of others”—Psychology Today, January 25, 2016 (bit.ly/2XXvRFa). This type of love knows no boundary, no color, nor race. It reaches to all humanity, whatever their nationality or religious affiliation.
Another aspect of love is the love we have for one another. This type of love is referred to as phileo love. “Which is to be distinguished from agape in this, that phileo more nearly represents tender affection”—Vine’s Expository Dictionary, vol. 3, p. 21.
The love that God has toward us is everlasting. It can transform us from having a vile and hateful attitude to having a calm and friendly attitude for one another. This, however, can only be accomplished when our hearts are transformed by God. The scripture says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”—2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV).
After Adam fell, mankind became susceptible to sin. Only as the grace of God is received by the human race can we live righteously and godly. Our love for each other must be born out of our love for God. The apostle Paul, in describing the love we should have toward each other, said, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”—1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV).
God’s love is not selfish or self-seeking. Whenever one hurts, especially in the household of faith, we should sympathize and empathize with them, and whatever we can do to help, we should, because we are our brother’s keeper. Do good to others because it is the right thing to do.
The idiomatic expression, “Love begets love” suggests that if we are loving to someone, the likelihood is that that person will be loving toward us. Jesus’ death on Calvary’s cross demonstrates His love for mankind. “Jesus did not come to men with commands and threatenings, but with love that is without a parallel. Love begets love; and thus the love of Christ displayed upon the cross woos and wins the sinner, and binds him repenting to the cross, believing and adoring the matchless depths of a Saviour’s love”—The Review and Herald, March 4, 1875.
As we enter this New Year, let’s reflect on God’s amazing love toward us. The enemy of our souls is seeking to divide and conquer God’s people, but let us unite in love toward one another and may the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.
This editorial first appeared in the January 2020 issue of the Atlantic Union Gleaner magazine, page 3.